Exploring Etna in Sicily

May 11th, 2008, 07:07 PM
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Exploring Etna in Sicily

In June, my husband and I are traveling to Sicily with our families. We are interested in exploring Mount Etna, but we're not sure the best way. Based on our other travel plans, we'd be approaching from the North. We're considering a jeep tour, doing some hiking solo and/or going on a guided hike. We're generally comfortable hiking and exploring on our own, but we're not sure what advantages a guide might have. At the same time, we're not sure what costs associated with tours might be worth it. Any advice from others who have done this would be great.
explorerLB3 is offline  
May 12th, 2008, 08:22 AM
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Hi, explorerLB3 -

I took an all-day tour of Mt. Etna that started and ended in Taormina. I enjoyed it very much, even though I generally prefer to visit things on my own. One of the main advantages to taking a tour is that it simplifies all the transfers between various types of transportation (bus, train, cable car, jeep).

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
May 12th, 2008, 09:07 AM
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We went to the top of Mt Etna almost exactly two years ago, although we approached from the southeast. We drove up and parked our car in a parking lot & then took a cable car as far as it goes. From that point, if I remember correctly, you have to take a tour to get to the top.

Hiking would have been out of the question, at any rate, as the snowplows had just uncovered the roads & just about everything else was buried in snow until you got close to the top where the heat melted the snow. During the hike around the top, I tried to stay in that narrow area which was close enough to the vents to stay warm without getting too close.

The guide's primary role seemed to be to keep people safe at the top. It certainly wasn't to be informative, since he only spoke Italian and French. So I, and an English woman who spoke no more French than I do - which isn't a lot - were his translators.

So, if you choose to go, pick a day with clear weather so you can enjoy the views and make sure your guide speaks your language.

Have a good time!
Shanti is offline  
May 12th, 2008, 09:34 AM
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This company offers a good range of trips and treks:
Londonres is offline  
May 12th, 2008, 09:56 AM
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Thanks kja, Shanti and Londonres! I guess a specific question is whether paying a guide to get to the summit is a significantly better experience than just going as far as you can go on your own. Do you feel like you're missing out on the full experience if you don't reach the summit?
explorerLB3 is offline  
May 12th, 2008, 10:00 AM
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there are two main approaches to the crater from car parks - the main one from Philosopher's Tower on the SE as described above - cable car then 4-wheel Jeep to near crater but only near the top with a guide you meet up with on site

there are buses here from Catania as well.

There is another launch point coming from the north but don't know too much about that.

Eruptions can close off all access or threats thereof

the cableway from Philsophers' Tower is periodically cut by eruptions, a major one only a few years back

I believe you need not be a hiker per se to do this jaunt but wear good shoes that will not be eaten up by lava paths

The CircumEtnea train line circles the volano's base but at a safe level - yet it's a unique train ride as it goes thru lava flows and also has been cut by eruptions - it goes practically all the way around, from Catania to Reposo (sp?) near Catania on the main rail line to Catania.

By bus you can go from Taormina to Randazzo, a stop on the Circumetnea rail line (narrow-gauge tiny trains)
PalenQ is offline  
May 12th, 2008, 10:24 AM
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Hi again, explorerLB3 -

I did not go all the way to the summit. The highest I went - where there was a very helpful English-speaking guide - was impressive, with venting fumeroles and magnificent views in all directions. I don't know what I missed, but I do know that I found the experience I did have fascinating.

As PalenQ noted, do where sturdy, thick-soled shoes. And be prepared for bitingly cold winds. I was particularly glad to have protective goggles and earmuffs.

BTW, give some thought to stopping at the Alcantara Gorge on the way.
kja is offline  
May 12th, 2008, 11:21 AM
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I don't know if I'd do it again. I definitely would not do it again in May - it was much too cold.

But I'm glad that I went. For some reason, I've always wanted to see Mt. Etna. (Although while I was up there, I kept thinking about how lovely the weather was in Taormina.) It was very interesting & the views were wonderful.

If you choose to go, definitely follow the advice about shoes and dress warmly - you definitely want to add or remove layers as you go up & down the mountain. I've been told that it usually is clearer in the morning, with increasing clouds as the day progresses, so do go up early.
Shanti is offline  
May 12th, 2008, 12:55 PM
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Do be aware this is an active volcano and you may want to have a Plan B should you get there and be unable to explore Etna due to eruptions.

During a trip I took in 2006 to Ecuador, the volcano we were planning to visit erupted on the night before we were to leave Quito & go down to Banos. Consequently, we ended up scrambling for alternative accommadations/plans. It all turned out fine, but just something to keep in mind when planning your itinerary.
JBX is offline  
May 15th, 2008, 11:21 AM
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If you want to review current updates on what's happening w/ Etna or other active volcanoes, check out the International Volcano Research Centre, http://www.intlvrc.org/cerupt.htm#etna
JBX is offline  
May 22nd, 2008, 01:46 PM
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Bookmarking, for my daughter, and the rest of our family...
rex is offline  
May 24th, 2008, 04:03 AM
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This is a good webcam site for Etna. I don't remember if it required a short download, but I've had it for a long time with no problems. It's live streaming video. Right click on the pic and you can zoom to full screen. Right click on it again to exit full screen. Best times for clear sky are early mornings and watching the birds fly by is fun too.
Hope it works!
TravMimi is offline  
May 27th, 2008, 07:22 AM
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I have just moved to Sicily with my partner Deborah who has been a guide in Sicily for the last 6 years. The tour of Etna is always a must on any trip to Sicily as it dominates the NE corner of the Island. Do you want to go right up to the crater or are you just looking for tour around the towns of the slopes? The cable car gets you to the top and then there are "moon buggies" to take you to the crater. There is of course the railway which circles the volcano which is a great way to see all the way round and saves the long drive.

You mentioned the jeep tour, this is becoming a very popular way of seeing the volcano and can be easily arranged either online or when you arrive.

Let me know if we can be of any help as we have started a buisness out here providing good acomodation and tours.
Siciliangems is offline  
Jun 1st, 2008, 05:09 PM
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Thanks to everyone for the helpful information. We are leaning towards arranging a Jeep tour, and are now trying to figure out what clothing is appropriate. We'll be around Etna in mid-June. I know the elevation means we definitely need to bring clothes specifically for this trip, but how cold will it be? Do we need pants and sweatshirts or multiple layers, winter coats and gloves and earmuffs? Any tips would be greatly appreciated so we can pack appropriately.
explorerLB3 is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2008, 07:48 AM
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Hi again, explorerLB3 -

As I mentioned earlier, it isn't just the cold - its also really windy near the top. I was glad to have (and was comfortable in) lots of layers, a pair of silk gloves, earmuffs, and protective goggles. And thick-soled shoes.

kja is offline  
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